Money, money, money — Stephen Ng

JANUARY 6 — I have two children attending a Chinese primary school.

For the past three years, we have already been bombarded with a barrage of flyers especially at the beginning of the year.

After the Ministry of Education enforced the ban on additional workbooks last year, there is a big relief for parents; otherwise, parents would have to dig deeper into their pockets, when the real benefactors are but what I believe is a cartel out there.

However, situation has not changed despite numerous complaints. Within just one week of school, parents continue to get a lot of flyers, long lists of magazines, extracurricular activities, and verbal requests from both the school and the Parent-Teacher Association (PIBG) asking for more donations, contributions and fees.

Let me just give two illustrations. Firstly, there is a long list of various magazines from Pustaka Kuala Lumpur that children can subscribe to. I want to know what vested interest the school authority has in circulating the flyer on behalf of the vendor in the classrooms and wasting teachers’ precious time collecting cheques on behalf of the vendor. Does the ministry even allow such penetration by certain vendors?

On the list, 3M magazine was clearly identified by teachers of at least two classes in Year One. In one class, the teacher told the children to write: Must Buy; in another class, the children were told to circle in read and verbally told to pay the money the next day. This clearly shows that there was instruction from the top.

In another case, no official announcement was made either in black and white or published via the All School Apps, creating confusion over why parents have to pay RM8 as donations to the Parent-Teacher Association (PIBG) for making name tags.

In the past, parents like me just paid it without asking. Now that many of us are enlightened, we started querying the PIBG chairman which led to an embarrassing situation, where he had to admit that there was “confusion” over the collection of RM8 per child.

If whatever money collected is properly accounted for and used with care for the benefits of our children, I have no problem with RM8. For example, the PIBG can bear the cost of additional tuition to help children who are weak in certain subjects or negotiate for discounts for school uniforms and PE t-shirts.

Or, as I had suggested in the past, the PIBG could help with some single mothers who are struggling to make ends meet, having three or four children to take care of. Some of these children come to school, without having a proper breakfast.

However, the culture which is especially notorious in some Chinese primary schools, is that I see even the PIBG is being used by school heads to accumulate lots of money and lavishing it on projects that create more controversies due to a lack of transparency.

The latest trend is to purchase expensive brass band equipment benefiting only a handful of pupils, building sports arena, purchasing eco smart boards which, despite the availability of e-textbooks in VLE Frog and such modern facilities, failed to reduce the need for children to bring textbooks to schools.

In my son’s school, I even see grill doors being installed for toilets and money spent lavishly for Chinese New Year when the PIBG fund could have been used to benefit the children’s education directly!

If the ministry does not put a stop to this immediately in Chinese primary schools and break the cartel spell, this ‘disease’ will also spread to national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan). Based on feedback that I received, this is already happening in some national schools.

Now, some parents are also concerned if they still have to pay for the computer classes which are taught during school hours. The ministry guideline is: Parents are not required to pay any additional fee that can be compulsory for any special classes that are conducted, be it computer classes, additional tuition or activities done in the name of the school.

While I am not against PIBG making some reasonable profits in some paid extra-curricular activities, the profit margin should be justified and most importantly utilised properly.

I urge the new Director-General of Education, Datuk Dr Amin Senin to immediately set up a task force comprising of men and women of integrity from every state to closely monitor on such longstanding issues.

Dr Amin should also approach the Auditor-General for auditors to check on some of the schools with big funds, to further improve the checks-and-balance of PIBG and Board of Governors’ bank accounts.

In the past, the local education district offices and even state education departments have failed to monitor closely on the abuses of funds by certain individuals and headmasters.

He should also listen to the complaints by parents lobby groups such as Jia zhong and Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE).

* Stephen Ng is a concerned parent, and read Malay Mail Online

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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